The Sutra of Nanda’s Going Forth

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In this sutra, The Sutra of Nanda’s Going Forth (Skt. Nandapravrajyāsutra; Tib. དགའ་བོ་རབ་ཏུ་བྱུང་བའི་མདོ།, Wyl. dga’ bo rab tu byung ba’i mdo), the Buddha Shakyamuni, accompanied by Ananda, visits the house of Nanda during his stay in Banyan Grove near Kapilavastu. A discourse ensues in which the Buddha explains to Nanda the importance and benefits of going forth as a monk. Nanda expresses hesitation about going forth, so the Buddha explains by means of analogies how fortunate Nanda is to have obtained an auspicious human birth, to have met the Buddha, and to have the opportunity to become a monk. Nanda is deeply impressed by the Buddha’s teaching and decides to renounce worldly life and go forth.

The two analogies that the Buddha gives to illustrate the difficulty of obtaining a human birth are the improbability of a blind turtle putting its head through a yoke tossed about on the waves of a vast ocean, and the improbability of a mustard seed passing through the eye of an upright-standing needle when a handful of seeds are tossed at it. Both analogies are widely known as illustrations of the rarity of obtaining a human birth. This sutra seems to be the only mention in full in the Kangyur of the analogy of the blind turtle, and it is therefore presumably to this canonical source that Shantideva refers in his Bodhicharyavatara.[1]


The Tibetan translation of this sutra can be found in the General Sutra section of the Tibetan Kangyur, Toh 328.


  1. 84000 Translating the Words of the Buddha.

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